Amazon (s AMZN) is expanding the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows Prime members who own a Kindle device to borrow one ebook a month for free, to the United Kingdom, Germany and France later this month.
Amazon launched KOLL in the United States last November with a library of about 5,000 traditionally published titles — some of which weren’t included with the publishers’ permission but, rather, were purchased by Amazon at the wholesale price each time a user borrowed one. This caused a controversy that has since subsided as KOLL has primarily become a vehicle for self-published authors to promote their books: Amazon opened it up to self-published authors in December 2011 through a program called KDP Select, and the library now contains over 200,000 titles, nearly all of them self-published. Authors are paid out of a fund each time their ebook is borrowed. (In exchange for including books in the KOLL, self-published authors must sell them exclusively through Kindle for a period of at least 90 days.) All seven Harry Potter ebooks are also available through the KOLL in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
It is unclear how many people in Europe will be eligible to borrow ebooks from the KOLL. Amazon has not released Prime membership numbers in any country, but it seems safe to assume that there are fewer members of “Amazon Premium” in the UK, France or Germany than there are in the United States, and fewer still who own a Kindle. But the expansion of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library to Europe comes at a time when Amazon is heavily promoting its self-publishing capabilities on the continent. At the Frankfurt Book Fair this week, Amazon has been holding daily sessions for international audiences about how to self-publish their books on Kindle.
In the press release announcing the expansion to Europe, Amazon said it is increasing the pool of money that self-published authors are paid from to $700,000 for October, from $600,000 last month, and “a larger increase anticipated in November.” The company says “in September, authors earned $2.29 per borrow, which is more than many KDP books earn per sale.” (Of course, not all books are borrowed even one time.)
Amazon also says that “in September, KDP Select books that enrolled in August earned 77% more royalties from paid sales than the three months before they were enrolled in the program. This figure is conservative and only includes books that were available via KDP for the entire three months prior to enrolling in KDP Select.”